December 12, 2013 - 8:41 AM
VERNON - Canadian National is being accused of carelessness and environmental damage after clearing a section of railroad next to a beaver lodge.
Dave Smith, director of a local trails society called Ribbons of Green, got a phone call from Vernon resident Lance Blair at about noon Dec. 5, telling him a CN maintenance truck with a back-hoe attachment was tearing up trees along Vernon Creek, right at the border of Polson Park. Smith left messages with the City of Vernon and Regional District of North Okanagan before heading down to the popular walking trail to see things for himself.
“They were moving down the track and clearing brush to preserve their right of way,” Smith says. “What this (grapple arm) was doing, was it was smashing.... It was a destructive clearing technique. It was uprooting trees and smashing branches.”
Debris spewed into the creek around a known beaver lodge. According to Blair, a juvenile beaver ran out to escape the destruction and while circling around on the tracks, was run over by the truck. The lodge may have been damaged, but Smith can’t tell for sure because a beaver dam looks like a pile of branches anyways.
CN spokesperson Warren Chandler confirms maintenance work was conducted that day, but says no beavers or beaver lodges were harmed according to the track superintendent and track manager. He says the work involved clearing branches to open up sight lines and improve safety. He adds the crew was aware of the beaver habitat, but maintains no part of it was damaged.
Smith insists CN used an irresponsible and destructive technique, and that’s got to change.
“From CN’s point of view, it’s a quick way (to clear the track). From my point of view, it was careless,” Smith says.
He says beaver habitats and riparian ecosystems are protected by law and can’t understand how CN got approval to do what they did.
“CN may or may not have filed the appropriate permits for what they did,” Smith says. “I feel there was an environmental breach.”
The City of Vernon and Regional District say the issue isn’t within their jurisdiction, but rather the Ministry of Environment’s. Smith hopes something can be done to “smarten up” CN.
“I think CN needs a slap on the wrist if nothing else so their practices improve in the future,” he says.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
A photo of the "mess" left behind by CN's maintenance work.
Image Credit: Dave Smith
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013